N.Y. Campground Marks 40th Anniversary
Camp Chautauqua near Stow, N.Y., will celebrate 40 years of operation under three generations this summer.
Built in the 1960s by Mark Anderson’s parents, Camp Chautauqua remains a family-run business today – with Anderson’s sons already taking over aspects of its operation, according to the Jamestown Post Journal, Jamestown, N.Y.
Working at Camp Chautauqua since the age of 16, Anderson has seen the business grow from 25 sites in 1968 to its current 250-site capacity. Similarly, as the number of camp sites has grown, Camp Chautauqua has evolved from a summertime-only camp to a year-round operation.
The Andersons will again hold an open house at Camp Chautauqua to kick off the summer months. Scheduled for Friday (June 13), the open house will feature half-price camp sites, a boat and RV show as well as a Saturday evening chicken barbecue.
According to the Andersons, Camp Chautauqua has always been a campground of some sort.
Initially an Indian encampment, the lakefront location had served as a picnic area for Jamestown residents at the turn of the 20th century as well as separate camps for boys and girls in more recent years. Before it was purchased by Roger C. Anderson in 1966, the Camp Chautauqua site had been owned by a church out of Indiana.
Roger Anderson purchased the two properties – as well as a piece of a neighboring farm – and began preparing the 100-acre site for commercial use. In high school at the time, Mark Anderson remembers spending those first two years tearing down buildings.
‘‘Everything had been in disrepair for a number of years,’’ Anderson said recently. ‘‘We used to work after school and on the weekends, while my dad was still selling insurance for Prudential. He had done a lot of jobs but had always liked the outdoors. This was one of those things that he had always thought the area needed.
‘‘The initial idea was that it was going to be a summertime thing, with us working weekends and wherever it fit into everybody’s schedule,’’ Anderson continued. ‘‘I was going to school to be a teacher and thought it fit, as I would have summertime free to work at the camp after having taught school all winter.’’
Summer Job Became Career
Camp Chautauqua has become a career for Anderson. And what began with Camp Chautauqua has grown into a lifetime of working in the campground industry. After years serving on local, state and national organizations, Anderson was elected last fall as chairman of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
Anderson said his mother, Janet, and sisters Lynne, Sharon and Martha were as much a part of Camp Chautauqua’s creation as he and his father. Similarly, Camp Chautauqua is run today by Anderson and his wife, Cella, and their children, Donald, Matthew, Roger and Kate.
‘‘I think I had my kids started here before they could walk,’’ Anderson joked. ‘‘One of their first jobs was probably at the age of 3, watching the gate of our animal petting park. The whole point of it all is that it’s been a real family operation over the years.’’
‘‘There’s no more room for development, other than just trying to keep up with the times,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Obviously the units have changed over the years. They’ve gotten bigger and more demanding. When we first opened, the first 25 sites used to split a 15-amp circuit four ways. Now we have 50-amp individual hookups at each site. We have water, electric, sewer, cable TV and telephone to most of the sites. And the entire campground is wireless.’’
Not just a pride to the Anderson family or a favorite spot of the many individuals who visit, Camp Chautauqua is one of the top 100-rated campgrounds in the entire country.
‘‘We have a lot of repeat business because of, I think, the care we put in and the way that we operate,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘We do have several campers that have been here for well over 35 years who continue to stay with us.’’
For the foreseeable future, Mark Anderson said Camp Chautauqua will remain open year-round and run by his family.
In addition to summertime visitors, Camp Chautauqua sees snowmobilers and ice fishermen in the winter. Additionally, Anderson said Camp Chautauqua has been successful as a result of the support it has received from area residents and businesses.
‘‘No business is successful entirely on its own, and we realize that,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘We have received support from local businesses. And as much as we appreciate the support that we’ve gotten from local businesses, we also feel that we’ve contributed back — in helping to promote the area and to make it more of a destination.’’
Calling the lake a draw, Anderson said Camp Chautauqua sees a lot of out-of-town visitors in the summer. However with the price of gas and other factors, Anderson said he would not be surprised if Camp Chautauqua starts to see more local residents taking ‘‘backyard vacations.’’